Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission Member Resigns After Gov. Stitt Signs HB1775

Tuesday, May 11th 2021, 10:23 pm
By: Grant Stephens

TULSA, Oklahoma -

A member of the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission has resigned as some call for Governor Kevin Stitt’s removal from the Commission.

Oklahoma representative Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) made it very clear he’s proud of the work the commission has done, but he said Stitt’s signing of House Bill 1775 was just a step too far.

Related Story: Race Massacre Centennial Commission Calls for Conversation With Gov. Stitt Over HB 1775

"This is about morality, this is about the governor and the fact that people like that shouldn't sit on commissions like these," Nichols said.

House Bill 1775 limits race and gender curriculum taught from kindergarten to college.

More About House Bill 1775: Gov. Stitt Signs Bill Limiting Race Curriculum From Kindergarten To College Into Law

The bill has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, drawing criticism from people like Nichols who worry it'll keep dark moments in history from being brought to light.

"We have to at some point draw a line in the sand. One of the issues with the race massacre is for so long the story was never told," Nichols said.

The Governor said those criticisms don't hold water.

"This bill clearly endorses teaching to the Oklahoma Academic Standards, which were written by Oklahoma educators and include events like the Oklahoma City bombing, the Tulsa Race Massacre, the emergence of Black Wall Street, Oklahoma City lunch counter sit-ins led by Clara Luper, and the Trail of Tears,' Governor Stitt said.

A statement from his office sent Tuesday also reads, "It is disappointing that some commission members feel that a common-sense law preventing students from being taught that one race or sex is superior to another is contrary to the mission of reconciliation and restoration."

The commission gave Stitt an ultimatum, asking him to explain his support of HB 1775, or be forced to resign.

Nichols isn't convinced it'll make a difference.

"What does one say at this point? He had the opportunity to do the right thing, he decided not to," Nichols said.

You can read Nichols’ full letter of resignation below.

Senator Matthews,
Serving on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial commission has been an absolute pleasure. Under your leadership, more than 40 Tulsans have led the charge to raise nearly $30 million, including $5.3 million for the Greenwood Cultural Center and $20 million for Tulsa’s Greenwood Rising History Center. It took 76 long years to issue a formal apology statement for the fallout of the Race Massacre. In five years, this commission did the work to finally memorialize the loss and tell many stories which were never told.
Being part of this commission has been one of the highlights of my public life. Regrettably, I will no longer serve on the commission – effective immediately.
With the signing of HB1775, our fellow commissioner Governor Kevin Stitt has cast an ugly shadow on the phenomenal work done during the last five years. Governor Stitt has chosen to align himself with folks who want to re-write or prohibit the full intellectual exploration of our history, which is in direct conflict with the spirit of the commission I joined several years ago.
I want to be clear; I do not, in any way, believe Governor Stitt or his policies are reflective of or a fair representative of others who sit on this board. This collective of selfless and dedicated commissioners have given their time, resources and talents to ensure the stories long buried in the rubble are finally told. The commissioners I’ve served with deserve our city and state’s deepest gratitude.
Finally, I know you and I agree that our work moving forward is about coming together. My resignation, while done on principled differences, should not be seen as a referendum on your leadership or the work of the commission. This team moved mountains. I look forward to fully participating in the activities commemorating the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial.
Sincerely, Representative Monroe Nichols

You can read Governor Stitt's full statement below.

“Governor Stitt and the First Lady both strongly support reconciliation, healing and the rebirth of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, and have worked with the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission on multiple productive events.
“While it has become clear that Mr. Armstrong does not speak for the entire Centennial Commission, it is disappointing that some commission members feel that a common-sense law preventing students from being taught that one race or sex is superior to another is contrary to the mission of reconciliation and restoration.
“Governor Stitt issued Executive Order 2021-12 as a signing statement to expressly direct that the Tulsa Race Massacre, and all historical events included in the Oklahoma Academic Standards, must still be taught in our schools. The governor believes that any other interpretation of this legislation is misguided and fundamentally inaccurate, and that position was expressed to the Centennial Commission before the bill was signed into law.”